South Dakota governor orders National Guard troops to border

Marcela Maldonado peeks through the window of the apartment that she says she is afraid to leave, at a migrant shelter in Anapra, New Mexico. (Photo by Corrie Boudreaux for Source NM)

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem announced plans Thursday to deploy more South Dakota National Guard troops to the nation’s southern border this summer.

Noem has sent South Dakota soldiers to the border previously. She said the new deployment comes in response to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s request for assistance. Noem is joining 12 other Republican governors who have pledged their support.

“Across the country, crime rates, drug overdoses, and human trafficking have all increased due to the ongoing challenges at the border,” Noem said in a press release.

The move follows President Joe Biden’s decision to end Title 42 in early May. The COVID-era policy prevented migrants seeking asylum from entering the country because of concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

In April 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the monthly number of migrants taken into custody or immediately sent back dropped to 16,182, which was the second-lowest total in more than 20 years. But encounters with migrants soared later, reaching 206,239 in November.

Earlier deployment

In 2021, a billionaire Republican donor from Tennessee, Willis Johnson, reached out to Noem and offered $1 million to help fund a South Dakota National Guard deployment to the southern border. She accepted the call and deployed 48 Guard members soon after.

The deployment cost $1.45 million, according to records obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

At the time, Noem said the troops would stop drug smugglers and human traffickers. However, the records obtained by CREW and reported on by The Associated Press showed that in the first two months of deployment, the troops didn’t seize any drugs, and mission logs did not contain any confirmed encounters with “transnational criminals.” Some days, the records showed, the troops had little if anything to do.

Noem’s news release about the new deployment did not say how much it will cost or how it will be funded.

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Joshua Haiar, South Dakota Searchlight
Joshua Haiar, South Dakota Searchlight

Joshua Haiar is a reporter based in Sioux Falls. Born and raised in Mitchell, he joined the Navy as a public affairs specialist after high school and then earned a degree from the University of South Dakota. Prior to joining South Dakota Searchlight, Joshua worked for five years as a multimedia specialist and journalist with South Dakota Public Broadcasting.